Self-publishing Basics

  1. Self-publishing: What is self-publishing? It is when you, the author, upload a book to amazon.com or smashwords.com, you set the price and the royalty options, you have access to your own sales data. When someone else does it for you (like a ‘self-publishing’ company), they are the publisher on record. They control the pricing, monitor sales, and keep a chunk (or all) of your royalties. This is not self-publishing.
  2. ‘Self-publishing’ companies: This terminology is very unfortunate because it gives you the illusion that you are self-publishing. You have no control over your royalties. It takes 30 minutes or less to upload your book to Amazon etc. It just doesn’t make sense to give away your royalties for this effort.
  3. Traditional publishing: When your book is published by a publishing house/company. The publisher pays you an advance, edits your book, designs your cover, publishes your book and is also in charge of distribution (i.e. sending it to book stores). Royalties typically are lower in India at 5-8%. The rest of the world is 15-25%.
  4. Beta readers: Once your manuscript is ready, seek out beta readers – people who’ll read the book and give you critical input i.e. what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Editing: It is not enough that your husband or your mother edited the book. Get your book professionally edited; if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, that is (see below for the list of editors).
  6. Book cover: Commission a cover for your book. You can expect to spend about $80-100. If this is too expensive, google for ‘premade covers.’ You can get them for as little as $20.
  7. Uploading your e-book (the electronically downloadable form of your book):
    • Upload to Amazon: Create account on http://kdp.amazon.com. This is where you will upload your kindle-compatible book.
    • Formatting: Format your book for kindle. For help with formatting, kdp (kindle direct publishing) has online tutorials. Once you’ve formatted, download the kindle previewer and page through the entire book to make sure there are no formatting errors. Only when you’re completely certain there are no errors, upload the book.
    • Pricing: Before you can upload, you’ll need to figure out the price. For my 105,000 word novel, I set the price at $2.99. When it started to sell steadily, I raised the price to $3.99. Some people set their price to 99 cents, hoping that they’ll gain readership that way, then raise the price. In my opinion, people who buy only 99 cent books are looking for a bargain, and are not open to buying when you do raise the price. They won’t be looking at the higher price range because there are so many 99 cent books available. Having said that, keeping your price under $5 is a good idea. That seems to be the impulse buy limit. When you price your book between $2.99-$9.99, your royalties are 70%. Otherwise it is 35%.
    • Upload to smashwords: Create an account on http://www.smashwords.com.  Download their free formatting guide. If formatting overwhelms you, the guide tells you how to get a list of formatters who will format your book for as little as $25.
  8. Uploading your paperback: What if you do want to hold the paper version of your book in your hand? Your options for the rest of the world (i.e. not India) are:
  9. Minimum expense to self-publish: Remember, pay for these services with a one-time fee. Do not go for the royalty sharing option. And never do both – pay upfront, as well as split royalties. That is a terrible deal for you.
    • Editing: For a manuscript of 100,000 words, about $500, though this varies with the skill level of the editor.
    • Book cover design: Cheapest premade covers will cost you $20-25. *** See Update below***
    • Formatting: $20-25.
    • Uploading to Amazon: FREE. Amazon is a retailer. It sells your books directly. Up to 70% royalties.
    • Uploading to smashwords: FREE. Smashwords is an aggregator. It uploads your books to iBooks, Barnes and Noble etc. It pays you 65% royalties. You can also buy books directly from here. Smashwords is useful for international authors because B&N etc. need a US bank account and tax id to upload your book. It is useful for Americans, as well, because you can use coupons to give away copies of your ebook for review.
    • If you want hand holding, Bookbaby.com has epublishing packages starting at $99. They do the formatting etc, but do not take a cut in your royalties. Remember, it is never advisable to do both. If a company is asking for set up fees and royalties, chances are it is a ‘self-publishing’ company.

     

  10. Protect yourself: If you do decide to go with a ‘self-publishing’ company, or with a literary agent, protect yourself by researching. A very unfortunate development is that a few major (i.e. known and reputable) companies are associating with well known sharks that tout themselves as ‘self-publishing’ companies. There are thousands of complaints against these ‘self-publishing’ companies. They charge you thousands of dollars for something that should cost only a few hundred. Before you do anything at all, google the ‘self-publishing’ company, and the word ‘complaints’. These companies make money off you by charging hefty set-up fees, and also taking a split in your royalties. Like I mention above, never do both – that is a terrible deal for you, the author.Don’t forget to check these sites out:
    •  http://absolutewrite.com
    •  http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware
    •  http://pred-ed.com
    • The Writer Beware website: http://accrispin.blogspot.com/
  11. Book cover designer (I have personal experience only with Manoj. Use rest at your own risk)
  12. Book covers and ebook formatting (I have personal experience only with Hugh. Use rest at your own risk)
  13. Editor (I have personal experience only with Pat. Use rest at your own risk)

    UPDATES

    1.  Check out Mark Coker’s (of smashwords) list of formatters and cover designers: http://agentqueryconnect.com/index.php?/topic/2891-smashwords-ceo-mark-cokers-official-list/
    2. Amazon is now experimenting with an ebook cover generator. There is no charge for this service.
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  1. March 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks Rasana, this is of great help.

    • rasanaatreya
      March 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      I’m glad!

  2. March 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Fantastic guide. I’ve certainly bookmarked this and will revisit when I’m ready 🙂 Thanks again!

    • rasanaatreya
      March 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Great! I’ve been asked to to this for a while now. By the time you’re ready for this post, I’m sure I’d have spent the time and introduced white space (aka more blank lines) as well! 🙂

  3. March 13, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks Rasana for step by step guide to self publishing. I have been looking forward to reading this. Along with e book , I also want print copy of my book in India. Do you think getting it printed from any printer , of course along with getting the cover done separately, and distributing it to book stores through own contacts makes sense?

    • rasanaatreya
      March 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      That’s a lot of work, though it can be done. The problem is that mainstream bookstores will not stock you because you’ll not be on their inventory. At least with pothi.com, you’ll have an ISBN and people will be able to order your book from various online stores.

    • January 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      Sujata, I think you are meaning to use offset printers and not Print on Demand..

      IF you are going to use a printing press, then you have to order in bulk like 1000 copies. If you are self-publisher, then mainstream stores might not list your books unless you have a very good distributor in your pockets. Even that is really difficult.

      You could of course list yourself as a seller on Flipkart and Amazon…

  4. March 13, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    I saved this post in my doc file. Its really hard to know about self publishing! Thank you so much Rasana!

    • rasanaatreya
      March 14, 2013 at 7:50 am

      I’m glad you found this useful.

  5. March 15, 2013 at 3:27 am

    I can only say wow…this sounds a complete guide…

    • rasanaatreya
      March 15, 2013 at 8:02 am

      Thanks, Suneetha!

  6. March 17, 2013 at 9:22 am

    great article. I am self publishing my book with Cinnamon Teal Publishing. Good insights you have shared. I was not aware of Smashwords, once the print version is out, I now plan to go the e way on Amazon and Smashwords as per your guidance. Thanks .. and cheers

    • rasanaatreya
      March 17, 2013 at 11:23 am

      Good luck!

  7. August 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    American authors: If you fail to register your work with the U.S. Copyright office you cannot bring a copyright infringement case, for which you can get not only damages but also attorney fees (hence, a good lawyer with a good case will take the case on a contingency-fee basis, with you paying only the expenses). Put another way, no registration effectively means no copyright (a right without an enforcement remedy is basically no right at all, right?).

    You can register your copyright online for $35: http://www.copyright.gov/eco/ Have a .pdf of your book and .jpg of your cover ready to upload.

  8. November 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for this resource. I uploaded my short non-fiction book on Amazon KDP by myself, using their cover creator (which has some nice options, especially if we have an appropriate photo). Do you think it’s better to hire an India-based editor for a story set in India?

    Destination Infinity

    • rasanaatreya
      November 7, 2013 at 9:27 am

      I used multiple beta readers first – 2 from India, 2 from Israel, 2 from America. My final editor (professional) was American. It all depends on your market. I wanted the foreign market too, so I made sure I had an American editor. More expensive, but totally worth it for me, because I made that money back from royalties of the first month.

  9. Dola
    November 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    This is a very useful resource Rasana, especially for newbies in this field (like me). Thank you. Bookmarked this for future use 🙂

    • rasanaatreya
      November 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Glad you find it useful, Dola!

  10. November 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Thank you, Rasana.

    • rasanaatreya
      November 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      You’re welcome!

  11. Neena Verma
    December 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Dear Rasana

    First warm appreciation and ‘thank you’ for being the light-house for prospective self-publishers like me.

    I am ready with my first book … thoroughly edited by myself (I am on the editorial team of couple of internationally published peer-review journals in my subject area) … I need support with cover design, page formatting, interior design , ISBN etc … Can you recommend an amazon or any other reliable platform for this … Is it possible to upload eBook on KDP and yet be able to get POD through pothi.com etc. … Else I do have local press in mind who does good job at reasonable cost.

    Your advice would be so helpful

    warmly
    neena , 9910021187

    • rasanaatreya
      December 26, 2013 at 9:04 am

      REplying privately.

  12. sundarivenkat
    December 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    An amazing amount of info here Rasana! Thank you so much. And wish you the very best. 🙂

    • rasanaatreya
      December 31, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      I’m glad you think so, Sundari. I hate that so many newbie writers are getting swindled by these so-called ‘self publishing’ companies. If I can help at least a few people avoid this trap, it’ll be worth it.

  13. February 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

    This website turned out to be very useful for me to self-publish my first book on Amazon Kindle: The Noble Terror. It is a novel. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.in/dp/B00IHJ2MZ2
    Thank you Rasana

    • rasanaatreya
      February 20, 2014 at 9:40 am

      I’m glad it was useful, Shirish! And thank you for letting me know. I was at a self publishing event in New Delhi as Amazon’s invitee. I’m going to be doing a blog post on that, as well. Maybe that’ll prove useful, too. BTW, I love the premise of your book. How interestingly different! May it do really well.

  14. February 26, 2014 at 4:43 am

    Timeless! Your Self Publishing Basics is timeless, and I’m proud to feature you again on Montana Scribbler, http://www.montanascribbler.com so more writers will benefit from your wisdom.
    Mona Leeson Vanek, Author, Behind These Mountains, Vols. I, II & III

    • rasanaatreya
      February 26, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Honored, Mona!

  15. July 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I’ve been breaking my head over such publishing ques and this is such a great help!! Thank you so very much and I’ll get back to you in case I get stuck somewhere! Thanks a ton!

    • rasanaatreya
      July 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      You’re welcome. Good luck with your book!

  16. R C Murthy
    October 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Abslutely delighting and to say very useful is an understatement. I’ve a few queries about my forthcoming book. I saw your contact address, which I don’t find it now. Grateful if you can help me to get it.

  17. January 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Rasana! Lots of valuable info here. I did not know much about self publishing earlier. I have an idea for a novel now and need to write it out soon!

    • rasanaatreya
      January 18, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      I’m glad!

      • October 9, 2017 at 4:15 pm

        Is that Rasana Athreya?

      • rasanaatreya
        October 9, 2017 at 9:09 pm

        No “h” in the last name, but yes

  18. March 14, 2015 at 9:02 am

    This is a fantastic piece of information. What a research! Awesome. I recently published a paperback book in Tamil and looking for my next publication in English. The information you have provided is very useful to me in my current venture. Thanks.

    • rasanaatreya
      March 14, 2015 at 9:58 am

      You’re welcome. I have an article in scroll.in today. You might find that useful. I’ll post the link in a bit.

  19. Vinod
    April 20, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Great information, many many thanks.

  20. Mahan Hazarika
    August 15, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Great information, Rasana. Thanks a ton!!

    • rasanaatreya
      August 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      You’re welcome!

  21. SURENDRA KUMAR SHARMA
    September 16, 2015 at 7:37 am

    I WISH TO GET MY HINDI LITERARY SONGS BOOK PUBLISHED WITH E-BOOK AND HARD COPIES. ENGLISH WRITERS R PUBLISHED FREE OF COST BY SO MANY PUBLISHING AGENCIES ALL OVER THE WORLD BUT THEY DO NOT PUBLISH HINDI WRITERS. I WISH TO GET MY BOOKS WHAT SHOULD I DO. SURENDRA K SHARMA E MAIL sksharmajp@gmail.com

    • rasanaatreya
      September 16, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Please read my recent posts and reach out to the people involved

  22. December 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you rasana this is very useful.

  23. November 12, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Perfect guide!

  24. November 17, 2016 at 3:33 am

    Thanks Rasana. I believe that self-publishing should the completion of the creative process and not a barrier. Writers are empowered by what they write, not whether it’s accepted by an agent, or a publisher. The digital age gives everyone a literary voice and a chance to contribute to the public repository.

  25. Juliet Banerjee
    November 25, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Hi Rasana,

    I stumbled upon your blog last night when searching how to self publish in India on you tube. Your interview with Joanna Penn was very insightful so thank you for the wealth of information. I am an NRI still working on the first draft on my novel and I am utterly floored with so much information on self publication in India. I wish to publish my books in India and internationally one day.
    I would like to ask you a few questions regarding getting a novel out there, on editing paperbacks and ebooks and how different are those. If i sort your resource to help me with editing my ebook can I use the same to publish using create space for international readers.

    Also how do you get with advertising your book once you have decided to self publish bring it to the world.
    If i wish to write anonymously under a pen name are there any challenges to it?

    I can see you are very busy but I would totally appreciate if you took the time out to reply back to me.

    Regards.
    Juliet

    • rasanaatreya
      December 1, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Hi Juliet,

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

      If you self-publish, you can use any editor of your choosing. Advertising is a toughie. You have to join various writer groups. There are lots of good writing blogs online. You can start with Jane Friedman’s.

      Using a penname should not be a problem. Many people do that.

      I’m curious – which part of the world are you in? Perhaps I can suggest more.

      Rasana

      • Juliet
        October 7, 2017 at 11:18 am

        Hey Rasana,

        I don’t understand how I missed your reply. I am sure I checked my inbox a few times and I was expecting an email reply perhaps because I had sent you an email. LOL!

        Extreme apologies for being late, it’s been a year since you answered my question. Thank you so much for taking the time.
        I live in Australia my story however is set in India and would more so suit an Indian audience.
        Yes, I have previously checked Jane Friedman’s blog along with few others. wealth of information there but nothing particularly about publishing in India.

        You blog is truly insightful.

        Juliet

      • rasanaatreya
        October 7, 2017 at 8:17 pm

        Good luck with your writing!

  26. rasanaatreya
    September 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Appreciate this, Yael!

  1. September 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm
  2. September 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm

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